A total of 434 3-year-olds remained eligible for this year's classics following completion of the Visa Triple Crown Challenge early nomination period Jan. 17.
Todd Pletcher led all trainers with 35 nominees and Coolmore Stud partner Michael Tabor, who won the 1995 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Belmont Stakes (gr. I) with Thunder Gulch, is listed as a partner in 13 nominees to lead all owners.
Perhaps most notable is the absence of nominees from Sheikh Mohammed's international Godolphin Racing stable. Norfolk Stakes (gr. II) winner Ruler's Court was considered Godolphin's prime Derby threat but a training injury in Dubai has knocked the son of Doneraile Court off the Triple Crown trail. A Godolphin spokesperson said the stable may nominate during the later period, which costs $6,000 and closes March 27. Godolphin had 19 sophomores nominated last year, 17 in 2002, and 20 in 2001.
Ed Seigenfeld, executive director of Triple Crown Productions, commented on the stable's absence.
"Godolphin Racing has been very prominent among nominating owners and a strong supporter of our races in recent years," Seigenfeld said. "The Triple Crown has been a major goal for Sheikh Mohammed and his operation and we hope that Godolphin will identify and develop some worthy candidates for this year's American classics."
The lack of nominees from Godolphin helped push down the number of early nominations, which cost $600 per horse, from last year's record total of 446. However, this year's figure is still the third highest since the current system was inaugurated.
Pletcher's bevy of nominees makes it the third-straight year the 2003 Eclipse Award finalist led all trainers. Last year, Pletcher had 38 nominees. Next is trainer Nick Zito with 22 nominees, followed by Bob Baffert and D. Wayne Lukas with 19 apiece.
Irish trainer Dermot Weld, who won the 1990 Belmont Stakes with Go and Go, has nominated 10 while countrymen Aidan O'Brien, master of Ballydoyle in County Tipperary, has nine nominees.
Eleven of the 12 finishers in the Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) have been nominated, including winner and 2-year-old champion Action this Day for trainer Richard Mandella. The only runner not nominated from the Juvenile was Siphonizer, who is out of training following throat surgery.
Champion Halfbridled is among nine fillies nominated and one of seven nominees for Mandella. Other fillies still under consideration for the Triple Crown include Ashado, runner-up for Pletcher in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) to Halfbridled, and seventh-place finisher Class Above from the Baffert stable.
The Fustok family's Buckram Oak Farm and the late William T. Young's Overbrook Farm rank second among owners with nine nominees each.
For the second straight year and the third in the past four, Lane's End Farm stallion A.P Indy is the most represented sire with 16 offspring nominated. He is followed by Storm Cat (15), Forestry (11), and Saint Ballado (10).Click Here for Sortable List of All Nominees